Working group says adapting to locked-in impacts will be the challenge of our lives

VANCOUVER | TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORIES OF THE xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) FIRST NATIONS — The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released today sends a clear signal that countries like Canada must significantly ramp up ambition to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. The David Suzuki Foundation calls on the federal government to prioritize climate and biodiversity in its upcoming budget, expected to be tabled in March.

“The IPCC report is shocking in its clarity,” David Suzuki Foundation executive director Severn Cullis-Suzuki said. “We’ve reached a point where we must do everything we can to prevent the worst impacts of a rapidly heating planet, but we must also find ways to adapt to the worsening impacts that are already locked in — impacts we’re seeing clearly with record heat domes, droughts, flooding, wildfires and more.”

The report, “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,” is the second from three working groups. The three reports, along with three special reports and a synthesis report, make up the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment. The first, released in August 2021, assessed the physical science, showing climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying. The third, expected in March, will be on climate change mitigation.

Today’s adaptation report findings are so critical that some working groups’ members leaked a draft in summer 2021 out of concern that its conclusions would be watered down during the process to gain approval of the 195 member countries and jurisdictions.

The report focuses on the connection between climate pollution, the destruction of nature and human society. The negative effects of climate change and nature loss make each problem worse and compound risks for people. At the same time, the potential to protect and restore nature offers hope for adapting to climate change and reducing it over the long term.

“With fossil fuels choking planetary and human health, rapid emissions reductions are crucial and represent the only pathway to health and financial security,” Foundation climate team lead and director-general for Quebec and Atlantic Canada Sabaa Khan said. “Improvements in air quality would be felt within years and benefits in global temperatures within decades.”

The report points to a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to enable climate-resilient development. Governments, civil society and the private sector must make inclusive development choices that prioritize risk reduction, equity and justice. Evidence shows that linking scientific, Indigenous and local knowledge leads to more effective and equitable actions.

“The more we delay, the harder and more costly adaptation will be,” Khan said, adding that equity in decision-making is key. “Climate injustices are rising. Meaningful participation of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations will enable transformative changes. Adaptation plans must also recognize Indigenous Peoples’ rights, title and consent.”

“This report also shows that reimagining our cities is a key near-term action to help us adapt to our changing climate — one that also brings benefits to other parts of our society,” Foundation director of sustainable communities Julius Lindsay said. “We must mainstream climate adaptation into the design and planning of our communities, and bring nature back as an integral part of city makeup.”

Privileged countries like Canada have a major role to play, as our per capita emissions are among the highest in the world. Globally, households with income in the top 10 per cent contributed about 36 to 45 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions from 2014 to 2019, while the bottom 50 per cent contributed around 13 to 15 per cent.

“If we take climate action now, we can address the cascading effects of climate impacts in a cost-effective and equitable way. If we don’t, our children will pay much more later,” Cullis-Suzuki said.

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